This was really quite different from The Just City. Where I felt that the first book was incredibly focussed on dialogue and discussion about what excellence is, what makes a just city, and how to live out Plato’s ideals – and I don’t mean any of that in a bad way, I adored it – this had a lot more action. What discussion there was often didn’t feel as grounded in philosophy because it was moving away from classical sources and into more personal, I think, reflections on being and existing. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a difference.
There are spoilers below for The Just City.
This is taking place twenty years after the events of the first book. Apollo is still there but Athene is still off in a huff. The place has fractured even further than it looked like it would when Kebes and his crew left; now there are several different cities on the island, all claiming to be Doing Plato in the Right Way – and all looking quite different. I LOVE this idea and wish there had been a bit more about how and why the cities were different. There is some, and it was enough for a taste, but I wanted extra.
Anyway the focus is still on Apollo and his family, so it’s still focussed on the original city. The narrators are Apollo, again, and Maia, again – and I liked keeping these original two because they have changed so much in some ways, and not in others. Maia especially has of course moved further away from the 18th-century girl she used to be. The additional narrator in the book is Arete (which means excellence), daughter of Apollo and Simmea. Yup. She’s quite young and very different in perspective compared to Apollo (natch) or Simmea when she was young because she’s had such a different experience – no being a slave for her, as for her mother, but instead a loving family environment.
The action is mostly spurred by one tragic act which has repercussions for a number of people although not for the entire city necessarily, which is another difference between this and the first; another way that it’s more personal, rather than society-wide. It does lead Apollo to consider more about the realities of being human and all, of course.
I enjoyed it, although not quite as much as The Just City. I cannot wait for the next book because WHOA what an ending.